ya aste manasa smaran
mithyacarah sa ucyate
One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.
One who is able to restrain their body from sense objects still may find their mind attached to sense objects. This is due to impurities caused by passion and desires from past lifetimes. Those who forcefully restrain their senses under the pretext of meditation but is inwardly reflecting on the objects of the senses is a cheat and a charlatan. Being impure the mind of such an impostor lacks the tranquillity and lucidity to practice such meditation.
Here the term ‘Karmendriyani’ does not stand only for the five organs of action (speech, hand, foot, anus and generative organ) but also stands for the five sense organs (ear, skin, eye, taste and nose) because actions cannot be performed by the organs of action alone without sense-organs. A man of foolish understanding (who cannot distinguish the real, from the unreal) restrains the senses forcibly, from running after sense-objects but thinks of the objects of enjoyment, with his mind and assumes this state, as action less. Such a person is called a hypocrite. The reason is that outwardly he has restrained the organs and senses, but because of egoism, attachment and desire, he performs action by enjoying pleasure, while thinking of the objects of enjoyment.
yas tv indriyani manasa
asaktah sa visisyate
But he who controls his senses through the mind, O Arjuna, and engages himself in the path of action, with the organs of action and sense, without being attached, is superior.
So the one performing actions without attachment is the best. Even the married householder who gradually through his actions controls his mind and senses is far superior to such a false renunciate. By diverting the senses from sense objects by control of the mind one becomes eligible for contemplation of the self. When unattached to the desire for anything, one gets qualified for meditation on the atma or soul. So it is clear that the discipline of karma yoga the practice of selfless actions is essential for spiritual development.
Here the term ‘Manasa, stands for all the inner senses-(mind, intellect, faculty of reflection and ego) and the term ‘Indriyani’ denotes, all the ten organs of action and sense-organs. ‘Controlling the senses by the mind’ means that by applying discrimination a seeker should realize that the self has no affinity for the senses and the mind. When the senses are controlled by the mind, these can be engaged in or deviated from, any activity as the seeker wishes.
It is attachment, and not actions or their fruit that is the root of all evils. Attachment is the main stumbling block to perfection.
We should remember that the Gita is meant for the man of the world and not for the recluse. Arjuna wanted to abandon karma which is impossible because he was not mentally ready for it and hence Krishna tells him how to transform the same karma into ‘nishkamakarma’(selfless action). Control of the senses must come from within through the mind.
niyatam kuru karma tvam
karma jyayo hy akarmanah
sarira-yatrapi ca te
na prasiddhyed akarmanah
Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.
One should perform the duties prescribed in the Vedic scriptures appropriate for ones stage in life. The daily duties like praying, meditating and worshipping are being referred to by Lord Krishna. Action is superior to inaction for by abstention from action none of these activities can be accomplished. What to say of those, if one fails to take actions even the maintenance of their physical body will not be possible.
One should perform the actions that are appropriate to one’s ‘varna’ or status and ashram or stage in life. In Vedic culture there are four varnas: brahmin the priestly class, kshatriya the royalty and warrior class, vaishya the farmers and business classes and sudra the workers and servants of the previous three classes. In Vedic culture there are also four ashrams: bramacharya which is celibate student life, grihasta which is married family life, vanaprastha which is semi-retired householder life and sannyasa which is complete renunciation of worldly life for meditation on God. Due to changing times and the unseemly mixture of different varnas people no longer adhere exclusively to the natural duties of their ashram as prescribed by the Vedas. This was even happening over 5000 years ago at the end Dvapara yuga. In the Mahabharata we see King Yudhishthira noting that it was becoming exceedingly difficult to determine the varna of people due to the mixture of different classes. Therefore it is only by conduct and attributes that one can judge what class one belongs to and not simply by what varna one was born into and this conduct is determined by actions.
A man is permitted to perform two types of actions-those as laid down in the scriptures such as, fasts and worship etc., and the allotted duty according to one’s caste, order of life, nature and circumstance, such as eating food, doing business, construction of a house and guiding a person who has lost his way and so on. Even if a man cannot perform all actions as laid down in the scriptures, thoroughly, he can very easily abandon the forbidden actions. Non-performance of prescribed actions is not very harmful, but abandonment of forbidden actions, such as falsehood, theft and violence etc., is very beneficial. When he abandons forbidden actions, actions sanctioned by the scriptures, are automatically performed by him.
yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra
loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
The mankind is bound by actions other than those done for the sake of sacrifice. Therefore, O son of Kunti (Arjuna), perform action for that (yajna) sake, and without attachment.
Generally, a person does an act promptly and efficiently, only if it serves his selfish motive, but such an action binds him. In order to be free from the bondage, he should perform actions prescribed by the scriptures, disinterestedly. Actions should be performed as a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord and no sacrifice should ever be performed with an intention for reward. Activities performed as an offering to the Supreme Lord known as yajna or sacrifice should be performed which are not bound to the material nature.
According to the Gita, every duty is ‘Yajna’ (sacrifice). The term ‘Yajna’ includes sacrifice, charity, penance, oblation, pilgrimage, fast, study of the Vedas and all physical, mundane and spiritual actions. Professions such as business, service and teaching etc., sanctioned by the scriptures, are also included in ‘Yajna’. Actions which are performed to comfort others and for the welfare of others are also included in the term ‘Yajna’. Attachment perishes very quickly by performing actions for the sake of sacrifice and all actions of a Karma yogi are dissolved i.e., they instead of leading the person to bondage, reduce the stock of his past actions also to nothing.
Only when people come forward to act in a spirit of cooperation and self-dedication, can the community get itself free from its shackles of poverty and sorrow. And such activities should be undertaken in a spirit of divine loyalty only then the worker gets no attachment.
saha-yajnah prajah srstva
esa vo ‘stv ista-kama-dhuk
At the beginning, when the creator ‘(Prajapati) created living beings with sacrifice and said, “By this shall you propagate; let this fulfil all your requirements for the sacrifice (Yajna).”
At the beginning of creation Brahma, the creator, created man by providing him with power for performing actions and also bestowed upon him discrimination to choose the right use of desirable and undesirable circumstances that leads to salvation. A Karma yogi (the follower of the Discipline of Action), is ever ready to render service or do good to others. Therefore, according to the ordinance of Brahma, the creator, such a Karma yogi does not lack the required capacity and material for rendering service to others, and for the maintenance of his body. All this required material is easily available to him. According to the ordinance of Brahma everybody has been offered this material, in order to enable him to perform his duty.
God has created the entire world with a spirit of sacrifice and service. Look around and see yourself! The sun, moon, sea, river, trees…. All serve others selflessly without expecting anything in return. Only human beings are selfish. We can only progress when we start doing selfless service to others without expecting anything in return.